More VC-backed founders seek work/life balance: study

Helping founders stay healthy and avoid burnout is a top priority for most venture capitalists.

And more founders and executives are prioritizing their health and personal development to find that elusive work/life balance.

That’s a key takeaway from a 2018 CEO Journey study released Aug. 22 by Norwest Venture Partners.

The study offers important insight for VC firms, many of which in recent years have begun offering portfolio services related to hiring, culture creation and management training, among other skill-building efforts.

Norwest, for instance, provides various portfolio services, including a network of coaches it recommend to its CEOs, and it offers peer-to-peer coaching for the CEOs and founders.

The study found that leading a venture-backed company requires just as much dedication and hard work as it always has. On average, CEOs/founders said they hadn’t had a work-free weekend in six weeks.

But founders and CEOs are prioritizing their mental and physical health regardless of how much work is piled on their plates. The study found that 71 percent get six hours of sleep or more a night, 60 percent exercise multiple times a week and 48 percent find time to read frequently for pleasure.

In addition, about half the leaders polled said they meet with a personal trainer regularly, while 32 percent say they consult with an executive coach, another 32 percent have a wellness coach and 22 percent see a therapist.

Respondents also said they spend time learning from peers. Fully 93 percent said they socialize with other CEOs/founders a few times a month or more, and 27 percent do so multiple times a week.

Norwest Partner Katie Belding, who heads up the firm’s marketing and portfolio services, said it was refreshing to see that most CEOs and founders are taking care of their mental and physical well-being.

“All investors need to know what their company founders are going through,” Belding said. “And the most important thing we can do is stay in contact with our portfolio-company CEOs to support their needs.”

The survey, conducted earlier this year by Wakefield Research, polled 200 CEOs and founders of privately held venture- and growth-equity-backed companies nationwide.

Among the survey’s other findings:

  • 90 percent of CEOs/founders admitted that fear of failure keeps them up at night more than any other concern;
  • about half the CEOs/founders said other challenges include revenue growth (49 percent) and raising capital (49 percent);
  • in hiring at the executive level, CEOs/founders find it most difficult to fill positions for sales/customer-success leaders (38 percent), technology/engineering leaders (37 percent) and operations leaders (25 percent);
  • the importance of these hires helps explain why 53 percent of CEOs/founders will invest their time to conduct three or more in-person interviews before offering employment;
  • within a year of starting their companies, 79 percent sought outside investment; and,
  • nearly half (47 percent) said individual partner expertise was the most important factor when they sought a lead investor, followed by 44 percent saying alignment with their company’s vision was important when raising capital.

“The CEO job can be a lonely one, so the key as an investment firm is to add value and help them grow so they can save time and money,” Belding said.

Action Item: For a more detailed look at the findings of the CEO Journey study, visit the Norwest website at ceojourneystudy.